Are you afraid to ask for advice?

Asking for advice is more contentious than might at first seem. There are generally, to draw a very rough divide, two types of people: those who like to work through problems on their own and those whose threshold to seek advice from others is lower. The skill to ask for advice in a work environment can be very important for the efficiency of a team, as Harvard Business School research  “Smart People Ask For (My) Advice” puts forward.

It’s good for you and your team to ask for advice

Many people are afraid to ask for help or advice for fear of seeming incompetent. This fear is unnecessary, however. Asking for advice has several benefits for both the advice seeker and the person giving the advice:

  1. Provided that the problem or task is sufficiently complex, asking for advice will make the advise seeker more competent rather than less so. Asking for input from others is seen as a wise thing to do.
  2. Asking for advice conveys an image of confidence.
  3. Seeking advice acknowledges the advisor’s expertise and boosts their ego.

Some people use advice seeking in a strategic manner without ever intending to take the advice into consideration. Because asking for advice makes the other person feel like they have a say and their opinion is valued, the strategic individual can this way give a positive impression. Feeling of empowerment is a key factor in employee engagement and smart managers will include their staff in decision making but some will merely use this technique to create an illusion of ‘democracy’.

To ask for advice is an opportunity to share knowledge

The study referred to above concludes that “many individuals exaggerate the harmful consequences of seeking advice and undervalue its benefits. Our findings identify an important opportunity for employees and managers. Specifically, employees should seek advice and managers should promote advice seeking among their employees. Not only is advice seeking beneficial for the spread of information, but it may also boost perceptions of competence for advice seekers and make advisors feel affirmed. By failing to seek advice, individuals and their organizations miss opportunities to share knowledge and improve interpersonal outcomes.”

So go forth and be not afraid to ask for advice!